Tag Archives: Kṛṣṇa

Introduction to Bhagavad Gita – Victory with Krishna

Bhagavad Gītā is the analysis of the human mind, which is a most complex and unpredictable asset.

In this universe, everything comes in ordered cycles. The seasons come and go, days and nights come and go, and creation and destruction occur, but the most uncertain, and therefore problematic, aspect is the human mind.  In many ways, we are our mind, and depending on the nature of the mind, a human being can be 5% human being and 95% animal, or 20% human being and 80% animal. It’s difficult to say what a person is since he may look like a human being but what is going on inside the mind is very difficult to know. A dog is 100% dog. An apple tree is 100% an apple tree. But this does not apply to human beings. 

The situation at present is especially complicated because we cannot even tell whether somebody is a male or a female. Previously, that distinction was there. A male was a male, and a female was a female. Now with the progress of civilization, our identities have become more complex. We are not sure which pronoun we should use for the person we are communicating with. Our minds have become more complex.

Although so much research has been done in the fields of psychology, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, neuroscience, neurobiology, etc., there is no conclusion about what the human mind actually is, how to control it, how it works, and what is the energy that makes it function. But this knowledge is very conclusively given in Bhagavad Gītā, which is a study of the human mind. It’s not a very big book. Unlike the Vedas, Mahābhārata, or Rāmāyaṇa, which are very voluminous, the Gītā has only 700 verses. One will find very important and practical instructions in it. There are various topics in this small book. Let’s look at them in brief.

The last verse of Bhagavad Gītā says:

yatra yogeśvaraḥ krsno yatra pārtho dhanur-dharaḥ
tatra śrīr vijayo bhūtir dhruvā nītir matir mama

“Wherever there is Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the master of yoga, and wherever there is Arjuna, the wielder of the bow, there will surely be opulence, victory, prosperity, and statesmanship. This is my conviction.”

The verse is very simple, but it contains deep meaning. 

We want beauty, wealth, and power. We want love and victory. We want morality. To acquire these desirable assets, you need two things. One is to become a Pārtha, Dhanurdhara. These are two names of Arjuna used in this verse. The other is Yogeśvara Kṛṣṇa.

Arjuna’s mother’s name was Pṛthā, and therefore he is called Pārtha, which means “the son of Pṛthā.” But pārtha also has another meaning. It refers to a person who is sincere and who has some worth. Or, in other words, someone who is qualified.

The word “apārtha” means “useless,” so “pārtha” means the opposite of that—someone who has some worthy qualification. Thus, the word “pārtha” signifies a person who has attained qualification in his or her life. If we want to be successful, we have to work and become educated. Other species of life, such as animals and birds, instinctively know how to survive. They don’t have to go to school or undergo training. But when human beings are born, they are completely helpless and have to be taught everything, even how to go to the toilet.

We have potential and we need to learn to develop and use that potential. Therefore, one should try to become educated, or qualified, pārtha. Qualification does not merely mean gathering information, which is freely available on the Internet. This kind of information is also needed but the primary education is to develop character. This is real education and is what everybody should acquire first before getting professionally trained. That is the implication of using the word “pārtha.”

Only human beings have the capability to acquire education and transfer knowledge. They can progress because they can learn and pass on knowledge. Other species of life are doing the same things in the same way they always have. Dogs lived 1,000 years ago, and they have continued to live in the same way. They eat in the same way; they don’t improve. Human beings, however, are changing because of the knowledge they have acquired and transferred. However, the most important form of knowledge is not about our life-style. It is about our own life, about the self, about character, about the purpose for which one exists. This type of knowledge and character development must be acquired.

The other name used for Arjuna is “dhanurdhara,” which means “one who carries a bow.” A bow is representative of diligence and hard work.  This implies that we must endeavor. It is not that after acquiring knowledge, we sit quietly, and things will happen automatically. We must become qualified and make an effort to reach our goal. Arjuna represents a person who is interested in spiritual life. He is dedicated to it, and he has his teacher. But the work must be done by Arjuna himself.  Everyone has to perform his sādhana (spiritual practice), which means effort and endeavor.

The next word of significance is “Yogeśvara-Kṛṣṇa.” Yatra yogeśvaraḥ kṛṣṇaḥ. He represents both guru and God. Even if we are qualified and we endeavor, we still need guidance in crucial times and we must have God in our life. Not only is Arjuna a very qualified person, and ready to fight, or ready to work, but he is also guided by Bhagavān. It is Kṛṣṇa who is driving the chariot. This implies that we must have some guidance in our life. It is needed both for material as well as spiritual success. Nobody can become enlightened by oneself. We are not born with knowledge. We all need guidance. This is the significance of Arjuna sitting on the chariot which Kṛṣṇa is driving.

If a person is educated, qualified, has good character, is sincere and hardworking, is also devoted to Bhagavān, and follows the scriptures properly, then there is bound to be success in life. There will be happiness, wealth, beauty, pleasure, and enjoyment. This is the meaning underlying the words of this verse.

Bhagavad Gītā was spoken on the Battlefield of Kurukṣetra, which is about 200 kilometers north of New Delhi. The battle was between cousins who were fighting for property. Before the battle began, both sides were trying to fortify their armies. They approached different kings in India to request them to fight on their side.

Both parties also approached Kṛṣṇa, who was living in Dvārakā. Duryodhana reached His residence first, arriving early in the morning. At that time, Kṛṣṇa was still in his bedroom and had not yet gotten up. Since Duryodhana didn’t want to take the chance that Arjuna, being Kṛṣṇa’s friend, could ask Him first for His alliance, he went straight into Kṛṣṇa’s bedroom and sat next to His head.

After some time, Arjuna arrived and was surprised to see Duryodhana sitting there. He then placed himself next to Kṛṣṇa’s feet. In India, to sit near the feet is considered respectful to the person, and it also means taking a humble position in relation to that person.

When Kṛṣṇa, who was not really sleeping, realized that both had come, He sat up. If one gets up from sleep and sits, it is natural to look toward one’s feet. When Kṛṣṇa saw Arjuna sitting there, He asked him when he came. Hearing this, Duryodhana became worried that Arjuna would ask Kṛṣṇa for His alliance first and said, “I’m also here.” Kṛṣṇa then turned His head and greeted Duryodhana.

Upon hearing both of their intentions to ask for His alliance, Kṛṣṇa told them that since they were both His relatives (Kṛṣṇa’s sister was married to Arjuna, and Duryodhana’s daughter was married to Kṛṣṇa’s son), He could not agree to help one and not the other. He offered to divide Himself and His army. Whichever side He was on, the army would be on the other side. He also put a condition: He personally would not fight.

Duryodhana wanted to get the first choice so that He could immediately ask for the army. However, Kṛṣṇa requested Arjuna to ask first. Duryodhana objected, saying that he came first, thus he should have first choice. Kṛṣṇa replied that although Duryodhana may have come first, He saw Arjuna first. Duryodhana understood that Kṛṣṇa was favoring Arjuna. Thinking that he would lose the opportunity to get the army, Duryodhana argued that He is senior, and thus should be given the first choice. Kṛṣṇa objected. In a family, when there are small children, they are taken care of first. When some sweets or gifts are to be distributed, they are first given to the children, not to the adults.

Kṛṣṇa then asked Arjuna what he wanted. Arjuna replied, “Kṛṣṇa, I want You. Give the army to Duryodhana.” Surprised, Kṛṣṇa asked “Why do you want Me? There will be a battle, and I’m not going to fight. It is not a festival that you are inviting Me for, you will need an army.” Duryodhana was feeling very happy inside, thinking that he will get the army and that Arjuna was foolish. Arjuna replied, “If You are with me, I have everything; if You are not with me, I have nothing.”

This is the difference between a materialist and a spiritualist. A materialist wants to have Bhagavān’s power, wealth, and energy, whereas a spiritualist wants Bhagavān. If Bhagavān is with us, then everything that a materialist hankers for is with us, plus more. Therefore, there is nothing else that a spiritualist needs. This is the significance of the words “yatra yogeśvaraḥ krsno yatra pārtho dhanur-dharah.” Where there is Arjuna, there is Kṛṣṇa.

This should be our life. We should work hard, attain qualification and education, and be with God. When we choose to follow God’s instructions, when we follow the principles set up by Him, then we are with God. Then our life will be successful.

This is the difference between Arjuna and Duryodhana, representatives of a spiritualist and a materialist. Duryodhana had a huge army, more than one and a half times the size of Arjuna’s. Duryodhana’s army had eleven akṣauhiṇīs, and Arjuna’s army had only seven akṣauhiṇīs, yet Arjuna was the one who became victorious. Duryodhana had all the great warriors on his side—Bhīṣma, whom nobody could defeat, Droṇa, who was his own teacher and a great fighter, Karṇa, Duḥśāsana, and many great heroes. Yet Arjuna became victorious only because he had Kṛṣṇa on his side.

Delve into the timeless wisdom of Bhagavad Gītā through our Sunday Livestream at 10:30 AM IST, eloquently explained in Hindi by Babaji Satyanarayana Dasa and translated simultaneously into English and Spanish via Zoom: https://bit.ly/JivaVedicInstituteBGWebinar. 


Reality & the Transcendental Body of a Vaiṣṇava – Part 2

The two words pratyak and praśāntaṁ in the verse under discussion (SB 5.12.11) refer to Paramātmā, who is an expansion of Bhagavān to control and manage the phenomenal world. Paramātmā manifests as the Immanent Being in everyone’s heart. Yogīs meditate on Him. The word pratyak (the innermost being) is used for both the jīvātmā and the Paramātmā.  The word praśānta (peaceful, undisturbed by anything) in the verse is used to distinguish Paramātmā from the jīvātmā, the individual being who is always disturbed.

Bhagavān, or the supreme personal manifestation of the Absolute Reality, is the worshipable object of the devotees. He has the other two aspects (Brahman and Paramātmā) within Himself. Bharata says that learned scholar address Bhagavān as Vāsudeva – “son of Vasudeva,” i.e. Kṛṣṇa.

Śāstric Evidence about Kṛṣṇa

Next, Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākura cites several scriptural evidences from Bhagavat Purāṇa to substantiate Bharata’s claim that Vāsudeva Kṛṣṇa is Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān simultaneously:

•   In his prayers to Kṛṣṇa, as part of brahma-mohan-līlā, Lord Brahmā says that Kṛṣṇa is the eternal, complete Brahman (SB 10.14.32).

•   In the story of the killing of Pūtanā, Śrī Śukadeva refers to Kṛṣṇa as Paramātmā (SB 10.6.36).

•   While relating the childhood activities of Kṛṣṇa, Śrī Śukadeva calls Kṛṣṇa Bhagavān (SB 10.8.27).

•   In Bhagavad Gītā (14.27), Kṛṣṇa says that He is the support of Brahman.

•   Similarly, in the concluding part of His vibhūti or opulence, He says that He has entered the universe by one part of His, which means the Paramātmā feature (Gītā 10.42).

•   Similarly, while describing His opulence to Uddhava in Bhagavat Purāṇa, He says that among the various form of Bhagavān, He is Vāsudeva (SB 11.16.21).

From these statements it is clear that Kṛṣṇa, son of Vasudeva, has all three aspects of Reality, i.e. Brahman, Paramātmā and Bhagavān and is thus the most complete manifestation of the Absolute Reality.

The word bhaga as part of the term Bhagavān means aiśvarya – the controlling potency. It implies that there must be something to control, which encompasses the material as well as the spiritual world. The material world is a manifestation of māyā and according to the previous instruction of Bharata to Rahūgaṇa, it is mithyā (not eternally existent). Therefore, the real objects of Bhagavān’s control are the devotees living in His abode, which is an eternal place.

Transcendent and Mundane Activity

Next, Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākura explains Jaḍa Bharata’s full message. He describes Bharata as saying, “O King, although you can directly perceive your worldly activities, they are all illusions – coming in and out of existence. They are perishable, limited by time and space.

“This implies that there is another type of activity of an altogether different class, beyond the guṇas and thus not bound by time and space. These are activities related to the Supremely Conscious Being and His devotees. I am trying to inform you about this, but being influenced by ignorance you have been unable to grasp it.

“Some scholars [Advaita-vādīs] call the world and all its activities mithyā – illusory. Giving this same philosophy I have called the world illusory, although in my opinion it is not exactly so. I call it illusory to help you become detached from your material experience and give you a glimpse of the Absolute Reality, in which I am situated.

“You think that I belong to the worldly illusion, but I do not. Therefore your logic does not comprehend me. You called me “fat”, “tired” and a “carrier of your palanquin” – but I told you I am not fat, nor am I tired, nor am I the carrier of your palanquin. I am not a part of these illusions because I do not identify with the material body and I am constantly situated in devotion to Kṛṣṇa. Even the Advaita-vādīs will not disagree with me on this.”

Two Opposing Schools of Thought

Viśvanāth Cakravārtī Ṭhākura describes that the King raises a doubt upon hearing this. He asks, “Bhakti is defined as the function of body, senses and mind only for the sake of Lord Kṛṣṇa. Yet, Lord Kapila states (in SB 3.29.12) that bhakti is nirguṇa – beyond matter.

“Some people (Śakti Pariṇāma-vādīs) say that the material world is a real transformation of the Lord’s external energy: that the effect retains the nature of the cause. If this is the case, I can see how it is possible for matter to become spiritualized by the power of bhakti – so I can understand how the activities of body, senses and mind of a devotee can be become spiritualized just as a touchstone can turn iron into gold.

“However another school of thought (Vivarta-vāda a.k.a. Advaita-vāda) says that the material world is only an illusion of reality: that the effect of the cause does not retain its qualities – and thus Reality can produce something wholly illusory. If this school of thought is adopted, bhakti must also be an illusion – since it is an activity done with the unreal body, mind and senses. It cannot be nirguṇa, as Lord Kapila claims. It does not even exist. If it does not exist, it cannot be given by the guru at the time of dikṣa (initiation); its sādhana is as meaningless and unreal as sowing a seed in the sky; Kṛṣṇa bhakti, its practice, and its perfection – love which can even control Bhagavān – must all be illusory.”

Jaḍa Bharata responds (from the Pariṇāma-vāda point of view, which is accepted by Bhagavat Purāṇa):

What you say is true, but nothing is impossible for Bhagavān who has trans-logical supreme power. Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself says (SB 11.29.22):

eṣā buddhimatāṁ buddhir

   manīṣā ca manīṣiṇām

yat satyam anṛteneha

   martyenāpnoti māmṛtam

“This is the wisdom of the wise, and cleverness of the clever: one can use the illusory, temporary body to attain Me, who am real and immortal.”

The meaning of this verse is: By that (yat) which is not real (anṛtena) – the mortal body (martyena) – one attains Me (mām), who is real (ṛtam).

The full sense of the verse is: Even by a false (anṛta) [because of being temporary] mortal body (martyena), one can attain Me, the Absolute Truth (ṛtam), who has a supremely blissful nature (satyam). Thus one can use the mortal material body to express devotion to Krishna by offering a leaf, flower, fragrance, incense, lamps, etc. This is the wisdom of the wise and the realization of those who are expert in deliberation.

(to be continued)

The Meaning of Non-Existence and its Implications on the Self’s Bondage

By Satyanarayana Dasa

In Indian Logic (Nyāya), non-existence is called abhāva. There are various divisions and subdivisions of non-existence.



Mutual Non-Existence (anyo’nya-abhāva)

“Mutual non-existence” means non-existence due to being different. For instance, a table is different from a chair. In a table, a chair does not exist. This is true for all three phases of time: A chair never existed within a table, nor does it currently exist within a table, nor will it ever in the future exist within a table. The chair and the table mutually demonstrate the non-existence of the other, because they are eternally different from each other.

Co-relational Non-Existence (saṁsarga-abhāva)

Another, more significant, type of non-existence is inherent within the object itself – not merely demonstrated by the object not existing within another object. There are three types of such “co-relational non-existence,” differentiated by the time at which the non-existence occurs.

Prior Non-Existence (prāg-abhāva)

Before an object came into existence, it was non-existent. That is “prior non-existence.” It implies that a non-existent object could be created, produced or generated in future.

Indian Logic accepts eight general and three specific causes of any creation. The eight general causes are:

1. God
2. God’s knowledge
3. God’s will
4. God’s effort
5. Fate
6. Prāg-abhāva
7. Space
8. Time

Prāg-abhāva is particularly significant, because if an object is not initially non-existent, there is no question of “creating” it. If there is no non-existence, it means that the object already exists.

To give an example: Before a cake comes into existence, its non-existence was prevailing without any beginning. This non-existence is called prāg-abhāva. However, when the cake is produced, its non-existence terminates.

Subsequent Non-Existence (pradhvaṁs-abhāva)

Continuing with the example of a cake, when it is entirely eaten the cake once again exists no more. This is “subsequent non-existence.” It implies that the object previously existed.

“Subsequent non-existence” has no end. Never again will that specific cake come back into existence. It will always remain non-existent. “Prior non-existence has an end, but no beginning; and “Subsequent non-existence” has a beginning but no end.

Eternal Non-Existence (atyanta-abhāva)

“Eternal non-existence” refers to things that never existed in the past and will never exist in the future, like the horns of a rabbit.

Implications for the “Fall of the Soul”

Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī says the living entity suffers because of an ignorance that has no beginning (prag-abhāva). Ignorance is merely the non-existence of knowledge, in this case of the Supreme Lord. In other words, the living entity suffers because of “prior non-existence” of divine knowledge.

This ignorance cannot be “subsequent non-existence of divine knowledge.” Because if it were so, then divine knowledge would have existed before the ignorance. However, it is a dictum that one who has knowledge of the Supreme Lord can never be put into ignorance. So Jīva Gosvāmī describes the soul’s ignorance as “beginningless” – the soul never possessed the divine knowledge to begin with. And this is why the jīva is called nitya-baddha, “ever-conditioned.”

When we apply this to the question of when, how or if the living entity fell from the spiritual world, we can conclude that he never fell, because his conditioned state has no beginning. This is the meaning of nitya-baddha. This also implies that it is possible to bring ignorance to an end. “Prior non-existence of knowledge” can be ended when one attains divine knowledge.

When divine knowledge comes into existence, it will never end. It puts ignorance into “subsequent non-existence” which is an endless condition. Therefore a person with divine knowledge is called nitya-siddha, “ever-liberated.” Such persons never fall down. This is the meaning of Lord Kṛṣṇa’s statement, yad gatvā na nivartante tad dhāma paramaṁ mama: “reaching which one never returns – this is my supreme abode” (BG 15.6).

This abode, the Lord’s planet (dhāma), is not physical. When we say, “after going there,” we think “going” means moving from one physical location to another, but this is not the case here. “Going” here refers to consciousness: When one’s consciousness “goes” transcendental, it cannot be lost, na nivartante.

Therefore, once a person becomes liberated, he cannot be bound again, and if someone is conditioned, there is no question that he or she was liberated prior to that.

That is the meaning of Jīva Gosvāmī’s statement in Priti Sandharbha (Anuccheda 1), saṁsargābhāva yuktatvena: A person’s pre-non-existence of knowledge implies that there is a possibility of acquiring knowledge. Although the ignorance has no beginning, it has an end.


Anything which has no prior non-existence, is called “eternal.” Things which were never created cannot be destroyed, they are outside the influence of chronology. Kṛṣṇa, for example, has no prior non-existence, therefore the terms “creation”, “existence” or “destruction” do not apply to Kṛṣṇa. To say Kṛṣṇa has existence implies in terms of Logic that prior to existence He did not exist, the non-existence was destroyed and then He came into existence. Obviously, this is not applicable to eternal objects.

Boat on the GangaHowever, this is not the case when it comes to ignorance, because ignorance itself is not a substance, it is merely the non-existence of another substance: knowledge. Thus, although it is beginningless, it has an end. Owing to our material conditioning, we think that everything has a beginning, and sometimes ācāryas may explain philosophy in terms implying that ignorance has a beginning, to circumvent the material conditioning that often prevents us from understanding the concept of “beginningless.”

Eternal beings like Kṛṣṇa and everything directly related to Him (e.g., His associates, His planets and His pastimes) have no beginning. Māyā and material nature are also related to Kṛṣṇa, and thus also have no beginning. We are also related to Kṛṣṇa, therefore we ourselves have no beginning and we seem to accept it without much thought. However, when it comes to our conditioned state, we somehow seem to object that our ignorance is beginningless.

Even though we may feel troubled by the thought that our ignorance has no beginning, we can rejoice to know that it can come to an end.


The Vaiṣṇava Concept of Māyā

Based on Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī’s Bhagavat Sandarbha

By Satyanarayana Dasa

The Lord has two types of energy: parā and aparā. Parā means distant, beyond, superior, and so on. The energy is called parā because it is superior to, or beyond, the material energy, which is thus called aparā, i.e. near or inferior. In the Bhagavad Gītā, Kṛṣṇa states that the living beings can be counted as parā, because of their conscious nature:

This eight-fold separated energy (the material nature) is called aparā, but different from it, O mighty-armed one, is the parā energy of mine, called the jīva (living being), by which this world is sustained. (Gītā 7.5)

In Śrī Bhagavat Sandarbha, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī explains these energies in detail. To understand parā, he first explains aparā because it is easier to understand. This is called candra-śākhā-nyāya or “the branch-moon principle,” by which one precedes the development of a more complex argument by first explaining an easier point, just as one might first point to the branch of a tree to show someone where the moon is.

To define the aparā, or external energy, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī cites one of the four seed verses (catu-slokī) of the Bhāgavatam that Lord Kṛṣṇa spoke to Brahmā at the dawn of creation. In this verse the Lord defines His external energy, māyā. The term māyā has various meanings, such as false, cheating, illusion, compassion, power, wisdom, entanglement, the goddess of fortune, magic and so on. Kṛṣṇa here uses it in the sense of the energy that causes bewilderment, the external energy.

According to this verse the basic characteristics of māyā are as follows:

1. Māyā does not exist within the Lord.

2. Māyā does not exist without the Lord.

3. Māyā exists outside the Lord.

4. Māyā is perceived when the Lord is not perceived.

A doubt may be raised concerning this definition. A conditioned living being also has the above characteristics and thus this definition has the defect of being too broad. To avoid this, Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī says that the jīva is conscious and has been counted in the same category as the Lord. Moreover, the above definition should include the jīva-māyā and gua-māyā features, which are indicated in the verse. Māyā is not in the parā-śakti. This also implies that it is not in the svarūpa of the jīva, or in the nature of the living being, and this is good news. Were māyā part of the jīva, there would be no question of being liberated from it.

This explanation of māyā defies the monistic view. Monists say that māyā is neither sat (real), asat (false), nor a combination of both. It is different from both, and yet not non-existent. Thus, it is inexplicable, or anirvacanīyā, and antagonistic to knowledge. Śaṅkarācārya describes māyā as follows:

Māyā is neither sat nor asat, nor is it a combination of sat and asat. It is neither different from, nor one with, Brahman, nor is it different from and one with It simultaneously. It does not have limbs or divisions, nor is it without them, nor is it a combination of both of these conditions. Māyā is most astonishing and inexplicable. (Viveka-cūāmai 111)

The reason for such an explanation is due to the fact that radical nondualists do not accept the potencies of Brahman. Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī, however, establishes that the Absolute is full of inconceivable potencies that manifest in multifarious ways. This is a simple fact, yet without acknowledging it, Absolute Reality cannot be comprehended. Because Advaita-vādīs cannot accommodate this fact, they are forced to manufacture complicated definitions. Instead of accepting inconceivable power (acintya-śakti), they are forced to accept a power that simply defies description (anirvacanīyā māyā), which is a convenient way not to have to adequately account for it. This strategy of theirs is itself inconceivable.

Advaita-vādīs also propose that both īśvara (the Lord) and jīva are products of māyā and at the absolute level there is only formless, unqualified Brahman. The Absolute Person, Śrī Kṛṣṇa however, does not agree with such ideas. Rather, He states that māyā is His energy and that it is beginningless (SB 11.11.3). Lord Brahmā also confirms this in the Second Canto, “The Lord is the support of both the vidyā and avidyā features of māyā” (SB 2.6.20).

The existence of an entity that can influence Brahman to turn into īśvara and jīva is impossible as well as inconceivable. We cannot invent a new category different from existence and non-existence (sat and asat). Kṛṣṇa Himself states in Bhagavad Gītā that there is either sat or asat; there is no third category, as speculated by the monists:

The unreal (asat) has no existence and the real (sat) has no non-existence. The conclusion about both of these has been seen by the knowers of Truth. (Gītā 2.16)

This definition of māyā also invalidates the Śākta philosophy. The Śāktas consider Śakti or Devī, who has various forms, to be the supreme controller. She is the mūla prakti, original nature, and divides herself into purua and prakti. She is mahā-māyā, who creates Viṣṇu, Śiva and Brahmā out of herself and enables them to perform their respective duties. In her ultimate feature she is nirgua and called para-brahman. There are various branches of the Śāktas and they have various types of practices for attaining their goal.

In contrary, Śrīmad Bhāgavatam clearly indicates that māyā cannot exist without the support of Lord Kṛṣṇa. She cannot even face Him (SB 2.7.47). In Bhagavad Gītā, Kṛṣṇa says, “māyā is My divine material energy” (7.14). Since Bhagavad Gītā is accepted as authoritative even by the Śaṅkaraites, certainly the claim of the Śāktas is not supported by the prasthāna-trayī, the three sources of scriptural authority, which are accepted by all Vedic philosophers.

Śrīla Jīva Gosvāmī says that māyā can be subdivided into two categories based on her functions. The first is called jīva-māyā, the feature of māyā that covers the living being’s true nature, or svarūpa. He also uses the term nimittāśa, “efficient or instrumental aspect,” to refer to this subdivision due its being instrumental in covering the living being with ignorance. But it is not sufficient to cover consciousness, or the nature of the living being. To perfect the soul’s bondage she must also provide the material body, senses, and sense objects for the jīva’s enjoyment. This is called gua-māyā, because all this paraphernalia is a transformation of the guas of māyā.

The gua-māyā feature is also called upādāna, or the material aspect, because it supplies the material ingredients. Just as when a man goes to a nightclub, he first gets intoxicated, which covers his intelligence (like jīva-māya); then he gets allured by the sense objects, such as a young woman (comparable to gua-māyā). That makes his illusion complete. In this way, the attack of māyā is two-fold—internal and external. The two features complement and strengthen each other. Thus it is impossible for a conditioned soul to get out of her clutches without assistance from beyond the guas.

Although māyā is real and this world manifested by her is also real, the good news is that the bondage of the jīva is not real. Otherwise there would be no possibility of liberation.